Gay Groups Step Up Anti-Roberts Efforts

HRC, Task Force troubled that Bush nominee could now lead Supreme Court for decades

National gay rights organizations, united in their opposition to President George W. Bush’s nomination of John G. Roberts to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court, have intensified that opposition now that Roberts has been picked to instead replace William Rehnquist and become the 17th chief justice of the United States.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said, “Judge Roberts as chief justice threatens decades of a federal court system tipped against equality. By deciding who authors majority opinions, he would be responsible for setting the tone and tenor of the judgments behind some of our nation’s greatest debates. He would wield significant authority over the entire federal judiciary.”

Solmonese called on Bush to select a “consensus” nominee with the Senate to replace the more moderate O’Connor who has agreed to stay on the court until a replacement is confirmed.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said Roberts “is not suitable for any seat on the court, particularly chief justice, because he has denigrated the nature and scope of the constitutional rights to privacy, equal protection and due process, as well as the federal government’s role in confronting injustice.”

Writing in the Advocate, Karel Charles Bouley, a gay radio talk show host in San Francisco, said that while he is “glad” that the national groups oppose Roberts, they should “sit down and refocus” on other projects because his confirmation is a “slam dunk.”

Roberta Sklar, spokesperson for the Task Force, said, “We will be asking people to put pressure on the Senate to conduct an intense query into not only Roberts’ record, but his ideology.” She added that it is critical that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered leaders be allowed to testify at his confirmation hearings.

“It’s the first time in the history of the United States that issues of concern to LGBT citizens are openly issues of concern as a nominee’s hearings are conducted,” Sklar said. Our issues have moved from the margins to the center.”

Gay City News contributor Doug Ireland wrote at Direland.com that Senate Democrats “had already thrown in the towel on confirming Roberts as an associate justice” and that his approval as chief “will be fairly easy sailing,” because Democrats want “to get this issue out of the way and resume beating up Bush on Katrina.”

Ireland lamented that Roberts’ ascendancy and an additional right winger to replace O’Connor will have a more “lasting impact on the country” than the hurricane, establishing “a conservative lock on the Supreme Court for decades.”

Once “liberties and protections against theocracy are gone,” Ireland wrote, “we won’t get them back.”

New York Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat, told Reuters, “This nomination certainly raises the stakes.”

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy said the Senate now needs to know even more about Roberts, and “whom the president intends to propose to nominate as a replacement” for O’Connor.

Schumer and Kennedy have been among the Democrats speaking out most forcefully that additional files from Roberts’ work in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush be released, particularly those from the nominee’s days as deputy to Solicitor General Kenneth Starr during the elder Bush’s term. The solicitor general’s office represents the U.S. government in legal proceedings, and among Roberts’ duties in that office was his friend of the court briefs in support of protesters seeking the right to picket abortion clinics.

Joining gay leaders in bidding a less-than-fond farewell to Rehnquist, albeit in an extremely coarser fashion, was the infamous Rev. Fred Phelps of God Hates Fags Ministries in Topeka.

“We rejoice that Rehnquist is dead and in Hell,” a Phelps flier calling for a picket of his funeral said. “It is a sin NOT to rejoice when God executes His wrath and vengeance upon a sorry, faggyass judge.

Phelps believes that “the judges gave America to the fags.”

For more information on the Roberts record and the LGBT campaign against his confirmation, go to hrc.org and thetaskforce.org.

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